Collected Poems, by William Butler Yeats

From Michael Robartes and the Dancer (1921)

Michael Robartes and the Dancer

He. Opinion is not worth a rush;

In this altar-piece the knight,

Who grips his long spear so to push

That dragon through the fading light,

Loved the lady; and it’s plain

The half-dead dragon was her thought,

That every morning rose again

And dug its claws and shrieked and fought.

Could the impossible come to pass

She would have time to turn her eyes,

Her lover thought, upon the glass

And on the instant would grow wise.

She. You mean they argued.

He. Put it so;

But bear in mind your lover’s wage

Is what your looking-glass can show,

And that he will turn green with rage

At all that is not pictured there.

She. May I not put myself to college?

He. Go pluck Athene by the hair;

For what mere book can grant a knowledge

With an impassioned gravity

Appropriate to that beating breast,

That vigorous thigh, that dreaming eye?

And may the Devil take the rest.

She. And must no beautiful woman be

Learned like a man?

He. Paul Veronese

And all his sacred company

Imagined bodies all their days

By the lagoon you love so much,

For proud, soft, ceremonious proof

That all must come to sight and touch;

While Michael Angelo’s Sistine roof,

His “Morning’ and his “Night’ disclose

How sinew that has been pulled tight,

Or it may be loosened in repose,

Can rule by supernatural right

Yet be but sinew.

She. I have heard said

There is great danger in the body.

He. Did God in portioning wine and bread

Give man His thought or His mere body?

She. My wretched dragon is perplexed.

He. I have principles to prove me right.

It follows from this Latin text

That blest souls are not composite,

And that all beautiful women may

Live in uncomposite blessedness,

And lead us to the like — if they

Will banish every thought, unless

The lineaments that please their view

When the long looking-glass is full,

Even from the foot-sole think it too.

She. They say such different things at school.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:02